Are we all going to die as a result of the LHC experiment?
Two nightmare scenarios, two ends of the world. In the first, there is little warning. For maybe a month there would be no sign that life was about to come to an abrupt and nasty end for all living things on Earth.
Then, earthquakes would start unexpectedly, alerting geologists that something terrible, unimaginable, was amiss.
After a few days, these seismic disturbances would reach catastrophic proportions.
Cities would be levelled, the oceans would rise and wash in a series of mega-tsunamis that would attack the world’s coasts, killing millions.
The fact that the earthquakes were striking randomly, not along well-known geological faultlines, would be proof that something devastating was afoot.
Finally, the end would come, in a disaster of Biblical scale. The Earth would literally start to crack up.
Molten lava would wash over the land and the seas would start to boil.
Mega-hurricanes would level buildings and forests the world over. Eventually, mountains would crumble as the Earth’s crust continued to disintegrate.
The fabric of the planet itself would start to disappear, trillions of tonnes of rock, water, air and life sucked into a whirlpool of unimaginable force.
From space, our blue-and-white home would appear to vanish down a plughole in a flash of light.
At least in this scenario we would have a little time, perhaps, to come to terms with the end.
It could be worse! Really, it could !
However, a second doomsday scenario is even more terrifying. There would be no warning at all.
In an instant – about one-twentieth of a second – the entire Earth would simply vanish from space.
Less than two seconds later, the Moon would follow suit. Eight minutes later, the Sun would be ripped apart, followed by the rest of the planets in the solar system and onwards, a wave of destruction caused by a rent in the fabric of space itself, spreading out from our world at the speed of light.
Any extra-terrestrials out there would die too, in due course. And there would be nothing technology could do about it.
Why are we worrying?
But why should we now be worrying about such possible causes of Armageddon?
The answer is a gargantuan machine – the largest, most expensive scientific experiment in history, the ‘Large Hadron Collider’, to be turned on next Wednesday.
Although it was designed to answer the fundamental questions of life, some people have claimed that it could end up destroying the entire cosmos.
A group of scientist claim there is a small – but not zero – chance that when the LHC is activated it will create either a mini-black hole which would fall into the ground and swallow the Earth from within (scenario one).
Or, even more bizarrely, trigger a catastrophic chain reaction in the very fabric of space and time itself, which would rip apart the entire universe like the skin of a bursting balloon (scenario two).
Bizarrely, this group, led by a German chemist called Otto Rossler, are using the European Convention on human rights to argue that, should the LHC destroy the entire Universe, it would ‘violate the right to life and right to private family life’.
In fact, since 1994, when the collider was first mooted by the multi-national European nuclear research organisation (CERN), a small number of doomsayers have claimed that by replicating the conditions pertaining at the start of the universe (Big Bang), about 13,700 million years ago, there would be a small but real risk an unstoppable cataclysm would take place.
“See you Thursday”